In brief

KINGFISHER STARTS UK-NEW DELHI FLIGHTS
INDIAN CARRIER KINGFISHER Airlines has been granted rights for seven new international routes, including a service between London and New Delhi. Daily non-stop flights will commence on March 28 and will be operated using a new Airbus A330-200 aircraft. British Airways, Virgin, Air India and Jet Airways currently serve the London-New Delhi route. In July last year the airline announced it was dropping its London-Bengalaru (Bangalore) route.

CONCUR-AMADEUS DEAL
EXPENSE MANAGEMENT firm Concur has teamed up travel technology provider Amadeus. The companies are to combine technologies to provide travel and expense management products launching later this year. The duo claimed the deal - which will see bookings from Amadeus' e-Travel Management platform integrated into Concur Expense and Amadeus distribution technology used in Concur's Cliqbook Travel - would increase their market share and provide an end-to-end solution for clients.

CHILTERN TO INVEST IN CAPITAL CONNECTION
CHILTERN RAILWAYS has announced plans to build a new rail link from London's Marylebone station to Oxford, in a bid to get more motorists to make use of the railways. The £250 million project, scheduled to be complete by 2013, will see halfa- mile of new track laid to connect Oxford to existing lines at Bicester. It is claimed the work will decrease journey times by up to 20 per cent.

WINGS SWOOPS IN FOR UK EXPANSION
SOUTH AFRICAN-BASED TMC Wings Corporate Travel will continue to pursue an aggressive acquisition strategy in the UK following its purchase of Travel Alliance. The TMC, a member of both the GTMC and Advantage's Focus Partnership, said it would push hard for business in the financial services and energy sectors while looking to buy any UK TMC that "presents a viable business growth opportunity." The company is also aiming to boost front-line head count in its offi ces.

PORTMAN CLOSURES
PORTMAN TRAVEL is to close offi ces in Crawley and Leicester, BBT understands. The travel management company was known to be in discussions with staff about relocating jobs to Northampton and Birmingham offi ces. The company has been streamlining since it acquired Fleet Street Travel in early 2008, having already closed a number of offi ces across the UK.

THREE-YEAR EXTENSION FOR TMC TRIO
NETWORK RAIL, which operates Britain's rail infrastructure, has renewed its contract with travel management trio Portman Travel, Hotelscene and Capita Business Travel. The three-year extension of its corporate travel contract, managed by Portman Travel, mainly covers domestic air, rail and hotels. Portman Travel also handles the air and Eurostar requirements, while Hotelscene handles hotels and conferences and Capita Business Travel looks after rail through Railooto.

EXPEDIA EXPANDS GLOBAL REACH
EXPEDIA'S NEWLY-FORMED Egencia Global Alliance boasts eight travel management company partners, offering services in Argentina, Hungary, Russia, Romania, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Uruguay. Egencia, which now claims to be the fifth largest travel management company in the world, is already represented in 15 countries in its own right, and the alliance is the latest step in a global expansion strategy.

Buying Solutions, an executive agency of the Offi ce of Government Commerce (OGC) in the Treasury, has added automated expense management and VAT reclaim specialist Meridian Global Services to its list of more than 600 suppliers. Set up in 2001, Buying Solutions' preferred vendors offer more than 500,000 products and services to government departments and other public sector bodies.

Ryanair has ruled out a third hostile bid for Aer Lingus. Denying media reports, chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "A third bid is highly unlikely unless or until the Irish Government decides to dispose of its 25 per cent stake in this lossmaking, increasingly-marginalised regional carrier."

Brussels Airlines has pulled out of Gatwick in order to step up frequencies from Heathrow to Brussels to four a day. Newcastle and Bristol services to the Belgian capital have been increased to three flights a day.

Qatar Airways next month launches daily flights to Tokyo via Osaka. Seoul, currently served via Osaka, becomes a stand-alone non-stop destination. Qatar has also launched daily flights between Doha and Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore.

From the end of this month, Singapore Airlines will operate five flights a week from Manchester to its home base - via Munich - with three-class Boeing B777-300ERs.

Travelport's Galileo and Worldspan global distribution systems are to take consolidated global airline schedule and minimum connect time (MCT) data from aviation data specialist OAG.

Latin America's LAN Airlines - which operates across Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru - has signed a full-content distribution agreement with Sabre Travel Network.

Lithuania's Star1 Airlines is to add a sixth weekly Stansted-Vilnius service on Thursdays, from April 29.

ACCOR BUYS GEORDIE SPA HOTEL
FRANCE'S ACCOR group has added the 103-room Mercure Newcastle George Washington Hotel Golf & Spa to its UK portfolio. Set within its own 18-hole championship golf course on the outskirts of Newcastle, the property - the 32nd Mercure in the UK - has had a £9 million makeover, with £3 million spent on a new clubhouse, conference centre and bar. Additional facilities include two function rooms for up to 180 delegates and seven syndicate rooms.

BUDGET CARRIER ENHANCES SERVICES
EXETER-BASED lowfare carrier Flybe has stepped up frequencies on its Birmingham- Glasgow and Cardiff- Belfast routes following cutbacks by bmibaby. Flybe is now offering 78 flights a week between Birmingham and Glasgow, and 16 a week between Cardiff and Belfast International.

The world's first Home2 Suites by Hilton - a 119-room midscale extended-stay property - opens at the end of this year in Fayetteville, North Carolina, close to the Fort Bragg military base. Hilton Worldwide's global head of brand management, Bill Duncan, says up to 100 Home2 units will come on stream over the next three years. "Developer response has been extremely gratifying," he said. "We have received 67 applications, approved 53 franchise agreements, with commitments to move into construction shortly, and have more than 30 additional properties in the early stages of the development pipeline."

Spring 2011 sees the opening of the 25-storey, 443-room Hotel Nikko Xiamen, JAL Hotels' sixth top-end property in China, where three more Nikko hotels are under construction. Facilities at the Xiamen property include a choice of restaurants and banquet halls, a spa and a fitness centre

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A 2013 opening date has been set for the 250-room Nha Trang Marriott Hotel in Vietnam. The property will have two restaurants, a spa and fitness centre, a ballroom, a boardroom and two meeting rooms.

Having opened its 400th Etapbranded hotel, Accor has announced plans to add another 100 by the end of next year. The 70-room Etap Hotel Verdun is also the brand's 200th franchised property in France.

One of Berlin's largest hotels, the 565-room Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, opens at the beginning of October, with 20 conference rooms and a ballroom. There is also free wifi internet access, a restaurant, bar and gym.

This month sees the opening of the 250-room Radisson Blu Hotel, Milan. Property features include Business Class guest rooms, free wifi , a restaurant, lounge bar, indoor pool and spa, and nearly 800m2 of meeting space.

The Strand Palace Hotel has emerged from a multi-million-pound refurbishment, which has renovated the public areas, eight meeting rooms (maximum capacity 180, theatre style) and bedrooms. the launch event, attended by 170 people, suggested it has certainly moved on from its former, underwhelming reputation. A further £8 million will be spent on continued improvements.

MILLENNIUM & COPTHORNE HOTELS has launched Crystal Clear, a meetings programme with day delegate rates from £25 and 24-hour rates from £99, including a price-match guarantee, no cancellation fee or penalty for a shortfall in delegates, and 30 per cent off leisure breaks for delegates. The offer is valid for events booked by June 30, 2010.

THE CITY OF BRIGHTON AND HOVE has secured four bids to host major conferences over the next two years. Financial experts have estimated that the events will pump almost £5 million into the local economy. Brighton Convention Bureau's Sales Manager Darren Johnson said: "These are really significant wins for Brighton as it shows that our business product matches and reflects the needs of this kind of business. We have the rooms, support services and an outstanding social agenda."

VENUEDIRECTORY.COM formally launched its web-based search, booking and tracking system GRATIS to the corporate world at the Business Travel and Meetings Show 2010. The tool operates on a live venue database, feeding all information direct to the venue - enquiries, what accommodation is being held, what is confirmed and the number of people attending the event. Venuedirectory.com holds 21,000 international venues, 8,000 of which are in the UK. "It is easy to use and works as well for a company that has a couple of bookings a month as for those booking on a daily basis," said commercial director Michael Begley.

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